WAC Launches Tête-a-Tête Project

Westport, CT - The Westport Arts Center, in partnership with Westport Arts Advisory Committee, announces the launch of Tête-à-Tête, a new project that combines exhibition, competition and placemaking. Call for entries is open through January 25, 2019 at westportartscenter.org/cfe. The exhibition will be on view March 8-16, 2019 with an opening reception March 8, 6-8pm at Westport Arts Center.

Jurists for the project are John Edelman (CEO, Design Within Reach), Patricia Kane (Curator of American Decorative Arts, Yale University Art Gallery), and Paul Goldberger (Pulitzer Prize-winning American architecture critic and educator).

The exhibition will feature artists that reimagine and reinvent the Victorian-era conversation bench–also known as a tête-à-tête, courting bench, conversation bench, kissing bench and gossip’s chair. This unique piece of French furniture emerged in the 19th century, and translates to head-to-head–describing the early functionality of these seats during the Victorian era.

The project is envisioned as a symbolic way to encourage conversation and civility within our community. The exhibition aims to foster dialogue in these polarized times–as people sit, talk and listen, their understanding and tolerance of each other will organically improve.

Westport Arts Center Executive Director, Amanda Innes, explains, “The idea of taking time, actually listening to other points of view, and expressing different ideas in a respectful way–somehow suddenly, that seems rather an old-fashioned concept.  We aim to bring it upfront and center, in a modern and very contemporary way. Who better to reach out to than the most creative people around us–designers and artists, dreamers and thinkers."

Awards will be given in fantastical, functional and collaborative design categories. Artists, furniture designers, architects, industrial designers, and creative thinkers are encouraged to participate and to collaborate with others.

Amanda Innes says, "Despite the arts being mainly a place for expressing emotions and ideas, we should not forget that it is also very much a place of looking and listening, of understanding and contemplation.  Artists will often dispute and challenge the concepts of others, but generally speaking, only after listening to them first!"

A contemporary re-imagining of the conversation bench will make this project relevant to today’s sensibilities. The categories—fantastical, functional and collaborative—allow for a wide range of exhibitors with diverse artistic training and abilities.

Ultimately, the winning bench design may be fabricated and find a home along the Saugatuck River, be an installation piece that travels around town, or become part of Westport’s Permanent Art Collection (WestPAC). Creative programming developed by community organizations and centered around the idea of listening is the natural outgrowth of this project.

Amanda Innes continues, “This unique project is intended to bring people together.  We anticipate some interesting entries, and hope that even in the designing of different benches, there will be a coming together of different views, different perspectives. The collaborative entry category highlights that intent – where an architect might partner with a graphic designer, or a sculptor might collaborate with a philosopher.  It's wide open, and we love that!"

For more details and entry guidelines, visit  westportartscenter.org/cfe.

About the Westport Arts Center

The Westport Arts Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting our community through the arts, reaches more than 7,000 people annually through outstanding programs in visual arts, arts education, and the performance arts of chamber music and jazz.

The Westport Arts Center receives philanthropic support from the Katherine and Howard Aibel Foundation; Anthropologie & Co.; Artur and Heida Hermanns Holde Foundation, Inc.; Bernstein Private Wealth Management; Cohen and Wolf, P.C.; Critical Mix; Delamar Southport; Design Within Reach; Dragone Motor Cars; Fairfield County Bank; Fairfield County's Community Foundation; Fairfield County Hunt Club; 4th Row Films; First County Bank Foundation; GWAY Print Solutions; Hal Prince Music; the Hall Art Foundation; The Hofstetter Baron Group; Hotel Zero Degrees; J.P. Morgan; Land Rover/Jaguar of Fairfield; Moffly Media; Newman's Own Foundation; Serena & Lily; Shack Sackler Foundation; Sontag Advisory LLC; SRI Fine Art Services; Steven Mancini Salon; Success Printing & Mailing; Teich Gardens; Verde Energy USA, Inc.; Wells Fargo Advisors; Westport Now; Westport Resources, a division of United Capital; WPKN and WSHU Public Radio Group. The Westport Arts Center operates with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

For more information, contact the Westport Arts Center at 203/222-7070 or www.westportartscenter.org.  The Westport Arts Center gallery is open Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 51 Riverside Avenue, Westport, CT.

About Westport Arts Advisory Committee

Established in 1994 by the late artist and educator Burt Chernow with founding members Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, David Rogers, John Simon and Ann Sheffer, the Westport Arts Advisory Committee (WAAC) is committed to increasing public awareness of the Town's cultural resources, past and present: its artists, artworks and institutions.

Appointed by the First Selectman, WAAC advises on the preservation of Westport’s legacy as an arts community, oversight of the Town Art Collection and ways to increase the visibility of the arts in our community.

WAAC meets on the second Tuesday each month at noon at Town Hall. Meetings are noticed and open to the public.

About John Edelman

Mr. John G. Edelman is currently the CEO of Design Within Reach, and has three decades’ experience with consumer-focused lifestyle brands. A 1988 Graduate of Manhattanville College, Mr. Edelman was a Private Label Director for Sam & Libby, Inc. and President of Edelman Leather, the leading national provider of premium leather to the home furnishings industry. CEO of Design Within Reach since 2009, Mr. Edelman also serves as Executive Vice President at Herman Miller. During his tenure, Mr. Edelman has rounded out the Design Within Reach designer roster with such notable talents as Møller, BassamFellows, Giorgio Soressi, Jonas Wadell, Matthew Hilton, and Omar de Biaggio.

About Patricia Kane

Patricia E. Kane, Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery, has been at Yale since receiving her M.A. from the University of Delaware, Winterthur Program in Early American Culture in 1968. She received her Ph.D. from Yale in 1987.  With Edwin A. Battison she published The American Clock, 1725-1865: The Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New York Graphic Society, 1973). Her book 300 Years of American Seating Furniture: Chairs and Beds from the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New York Graphic Society) appeared in 1976.  In 1998 she published Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers: A Biographical Dictionary based on the Notes of Francis Hill Bigelow and John Marshall Phillips.

Miss Kane oversees collections of American decorative arts and design that range from 750 AD to the present. She has organized and written for many exhibitions from “Furniture of the New Haven Colony: The Seventeenth Century Style” at the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1973 to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery” shown at the Speed Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery in 2008.  

Since 2002 Miss Kane has directed the Rhode Island Furniture Archive at the Yale University Art Gallery, a study that documents furniture making in Rhode Island from the first European colonization in 1636 through the early nineteenth century. The results of this research are being disseminated through a website, http://rifa.art.yale.edu, an acclaimed exhibition Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture 1650–1830, shown at the Art Gallery in 2016, and through a publication that accompanied the exhibition.

About Paul Goldberger

Paul Goldberger, who The Huffington Post has called “the leading figure in architecture criticism,” is now a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair. From 1997 through 2011 he served as the Architecture Critic for The New Yorker, where he wrote the magazine’s celebrated “Sky Line” column. He also holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in New York City. He was formerly Dean of the Parsons School of Design, a division of The New School. He is the author of several books, most recently a full-length biography of the architect Frank Gehry, entitled Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015. He is now completing work on his next book, an architectural and urbanistic history of the American baseball park, which will be published by Knopf in the spring of 2019.

He began his career at The New York Times, where in 1984 his architecture criticism was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, the highest award in journalism. In 2012 he received the Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum in recognition of the influence his writing has had on the public’s understanding of architecture. In 2016, Architizer named him the “Architecture Advocate of the Year.” In addition to the Gehry biography he is the author of Why Architecture Matters, published by Yale University Press; Building Up and Tearing Down, a collection of his articles from The New Yorker, published by Monacelli Press; and Christo and Jeanne-Claude, published by Taschen. He lectures widely around the country on architecture, design, historic preservation and cities, and has served as a consultant to museums, schools and corporations around the world on the process of selecting an architect. He recently advised the Obama Foundation on the selection of an architect for the Obama Presidential Center.

He is a graduate of Yale University, and he has been the recipient of five honorary doctoral degrees. He is a trustee of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and the Urban Design Forum, and he is a Trustee Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. He also serves as chairman of the Advisory Council for The Glass House, a historic property of the National Trust. He resides in New York City with his wife, Susan Solomon, chief executive officer of The New York Stem Cell Foundation. They are the parents of three sons.


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